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August 20, 2013 The Modern Law Library

Rosa Parks’ attorney: ‘If the story would be told, I’d have to tell it’

By Lee Rawles

Fred D. Gray was 24 years old when he defended Rosa Parks after she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Ala. But the story you might think you know is not the full story.

“We had an understanding that at some point, the two of us were going to tell the rest of the story together,” said Gray in an interview with the ABA Journal’s podcast editor Lee Rawles. “But I realized some years before Mrs. Parks’ death that her health–both physically and mentally–was of such that she wouldn’t be able to do it. And if the story would be told, I’d have to tell it.”

Gray had written his autobiography, Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred Gray, in 1995. In it, he discussed Rosa Parks’ case, but left out the full details. So in 2012, after Parks had passed away, Gray started to put together a revised edition, which has now been released.

In addition to providing the back story to the Montgomery bus boycott and his work defending Martin Luther King Jr., Gray’s autobiography discusses how his case Browder v. Gayle desegregated the bus system in Montgomery; how he tried the cases which achieved school desegregation in Alabama; how he represented the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study; and how he became the first African-American president of the Alabama State Bar Association. Gray was also one of the lawyers for the seminal libel case Times v. Sullivan.

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In This Podcast:

Lee Rawles
Fred D. Gray is one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys. At age 24, he was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began the modern civil rights movement. His other cases and clients include the Freedom Riders, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, numerous school desegregation and voting rights lawsuits and may nothers. He is also the author of The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: The Real Story and Beyond. He has been awarded the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award. He lives in Tuskegee, Ala.